The Power of Nonviolent Protest and Much Respect to UC Davis #occupy

by jhwygirl

There’s been some pretty shocking video out of University of California-Davis over the last several days. 99% of the reaction has been that people were horrified and disgusted by the police actions.

For myself, I must be numb. The blatent disregard the UCDavis cops had for the students they are paid to protect – protect – has been played out all over the country in cities across America. Police beating with billy clubs and people beating them with fists and body slams? Police pepper spraying – pepper spraying randomly and with malice? Police firing guns with rubber pellets and tear gas and other various projectiles? It’s been played out in NYC, in Portland, in Phoenix, in Denver…Pittsburgh…LA..Oakland. Everywhere.

All of this directed at masses of peaceful protesters. People angry at the banking system and corporatization of America. An America that is making money on money – and leaving real America- the 99% – out floating in its wake.

And let’s make not mistake – peaceful protestors shouting angrily about their protest issues does not necessitate a need for mob control. We are not seeing mass vandalism, people. We are seeing mass protest and over reaction by police which incites mobs and results – sometimes and not all the time and you all know this to be true – some actual property destruction.

On Friday, UCDavis chancellor ordered the #occupy occupation tents removed. Cops come in with full riot gear, and..well…started beating on not only students, but also a poet laureate and Wordsworth scholar, along with their colleagues who had gone down to bear witness to the alleged violence of the students. Here is the first video that I saw of Friday’s removal:

It’s bizarre. It’s troubling – and again, remember my numbness to these scenes of violence. I see this stuff day in day out on twitter – regular network news doesn’t even have time in their 20-second sound bite rule to cover this stuff, yet alone fit it into their corporate-biased agenda. But did you watch to the end? At 8 minutes long, I wonder how many of you bailed about half-way through?

Sometime late Saturday someone posted the video below which shows the same situation from another angle, with a longer lead in – and it cuts out the events that occurred late in the video I posted above:

It was this second video that sickened even the numb jhwygirl. The vitrol the one lead officer directed at peaceful students – children for crying out loud! – is stomach-turning. I feel the pain of the woman you can hear in the background screaming (and later crying) “you are supposed to protect them!” as the cops, with determination and deliberation, pepper spray those kids at close range while they sit peacefully on the sidewalk of their campus.

Goddess, what has this nation come to?

My numbness though requires me to try and find something good – a sanity mechanism I’m learning ;) – and it is the end of that first video (and less so the second) which shows the police’s full retreat.

Those police stood there in full riot gear facing down peaceful protesting students sitting on a sidewalk. Hundreds stood there in witness – all of which included cameras and cell phones and video cameras. It wasn’t just students standing there – it was news media and university personnel. Yet those cops stood there as a handful pointed guns (likely loaded with pepper spray balls or rubber bullets) at eye and head level. Those cops stood there in bullet proof vests and masks and watched as a colleague stood like some sort of cattle master over those peaceful students and shook up that pepper spray – and at one point double-fisted himself with the stuff, having grabbed a fellow cops can – and marched up and down in attempts to intimidate peaceful students sitting on a sidewalk with that pepper spray.

For what? Control of the sidewalk?

And yet even after he emptied a can of pepper spray on those kids and only one or two ran after the pain was inflicted, those cops were safe. The only rush was to the safety of those students – and yet those cops who are sworn to protect left those students in bodily harm (pepper spray is NOT harmless folks…it can blind, and in this case it did cause bleeding) and beat back the people who attempted to protect and assist.

What is moving about those two videos is the safety of those disgusting officers who violated multiple laws and policies by doing what they did…

What is moving is the safety they had as they retreated from their failed attempt to clear a sidewalk. A friggin’ sidewalk.

What is moving is the obvious fear that the same officer who inflicted the pepper spray exhibited as he retreated – and his companion officers who continued to point those rifles at the heads of those peaceful protestors and their accompanying witnesses.

Did they cry when they shut the door of their office or their car after they completed their retreat? Do they look at this video and realize the complete shame of what they did? Do the ones that stood guard realize the sin of their complicity?

I have some understanding of mob mentality, I’d like to think – so I wonder what those cops thought after they exhaled that evening. After they saw themselves on film.

Finally – last night UC Davis’ Chancellor Katehi took a late night walk to her car. The campus is now filled with protesters. And Chancellor Katehi – who had said on Saturday that the police use of pepper spray was justified because her and the staff at the university felt threatened – walked in silence and shame to her car.

I bet she was shaking once her and her companion drove away. And I bet she cried too.

  1. JC

    I’ve watched several other angles of this incident, and like you it leaves me numb. I find my sanity by going and working with people in Occupy in a wide variety of ways. I find that face-to-face I encounter the goodness of the people working together in this.

    But it is the following video that is most haunting. Dozens of riot police confront one peaceful, unarmed Iraq military vet, and Oakland business owner. The tactic of concerted goose-stepping as an intimidation technique is just chilling. This is the abuse of power to the extreme, and indicative of a failed moral underpinning of the power of the state. It delegitimizes the authority that the state has to enforce the law, and encourages anarchy of the sort we saw in later Oakland rioting.

    I don’t know how to react to video like this except with utter disgust behind the police and militaristic culture that allows this sort of behavior in our country. It is why I, and millions of others, continue to fight…

    • Kayvan Sabehgi is an Iraqi war veteran and a business owner. His spleen was ruptured in this beating. He was left to lay in his cell without medical attention and did not receive any until more than 6 1/2 hours after his release.

      He was in his cell for 6 1/2 hours after his release, unconscious and unable to move – and unassisted by the police who are sworn to protect the public safety.

      He was the second veteran known to have suffered grave injury in these #occupy protests…though few have heard of Kayvan’s ordeal.

      the UK Guardian is doing some great coverage.

  2. ladybug

    Perhaps it is a good time to ask once again the favorite question of right-wing “hawks:” Are we safer?

    Violence is just waiting for any flimsy excuse to abuse any American citizen in every police station in the country. Chilling, but not far from reality. The next question: What is every single American willing to do about it? It’s time to roll back excessive police powers of the state.

  3. Lambert Strether has an excellent breakdown of the video of Lt. John Pike pepper spraying and after where the real brilliance of this event is shown. Lambert has for weeks emphasizing the positive aspects of these encounters rather than police violence. The UC Davis protesters brilliantly, yes brilliantly, chant “our university, our quad” then when these jerks point their rifles at them someone yells “Mic Check! Mic Check!” Then they give the police “a moment of peace” in order “to go”. Then chant, “You can go, You CAN go”. In other words, they become the sovereigns telling the police to go and get out of their space. They allow the cops to go. Genius.

    Oh, and he came up with the idea of “Mike Check for President”.
    I am a very happy blogger at his site

  4. lizard19

    and where’s the president on this? i guess he’s been too busy doing things like securing a military presence in Australia. lovely.

    remember when Henry Gates was treated unfairly by a cop? it warranted the “Beer Summit”.

    but when lesser Americans are given the police state treatment, meh.

  5. JC

    Glen Greenwald has an excellent post on this today:

    “Despite all the rights of free speech and assembly flamboyantly guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the reality is that punishing the exercise of those rights with police force and state violence has been the reflexive response in America for quite some time. As Franke-Ruta put it, “America has a very long history of protests that meet with excessive or violent response, most vividly recorded in the second half of the 20th century.” Digby yesterday recounted a similar though even worse incident aimed at environmental protesters.

    The intent and effect of such abuse is that it renders those guaranteed freedoms meaningless. If a population becomes bullied or intimidated out of exercising rights offered on paper, those rights effectively cease to exist. Every time the citizenry watches peaceful protesters getting pepper-sprayed — or hears that an Occupy protester suffered brain damage and almost died after being shot in the skull with a rubber bullet — many become increasingly fearful of participating in this citizen movement, and also become fearful in general of exercising their rights in a way that is bothersome or threatening to those in power. That’s a natural response, and it’s exactly what the climate of fear imposed by all abusive police state actions is intended to achieve: to coerce citizens to “decide” on their own to be passive and compliant — to refrain from exercising their rights — out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.”

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